Open Back vs. Closed Back Headphones: Which Is Right for You?

A pair of Mezze Liric closed-back headphones on a stand.

Comparing Closed Back vs. Open Back Hi-Fi Headphones 

If you really love music, it may finally be time to upgrade your earbuds or low-end headphones to a pair of quality over-ear headphones. You know, the kind where you can feel the music in your soul, as if musicians are crooning into your ears and your ears alone. 

If you’ve done any research on hi-fi headphones (head-fi, as some call it), you’ve likely come across the terms closed-back and open-back headphones. Closed-back headphones have a sealed or enclosed design on the back of the ear cups, while open-back headphones include perforations or openings at the back, allowing air to move freely away from the back of the driver instead of being reflected back towards your ear. 

Closed-back headphones are more common due to their noise isolation. But which is right for you? The HiFi Buys team in Atlanta, GA, is here to help—let’s compare open and closed-back headphones below. 

SEE ALSO: Are You Ready to Change Your Life with High-End Headphones?

Why Choose Closed-Back Headphones? 

Closed-back headphones’ sealed ear cup design is more complicated than open-back, but despite this, they’re much more prevalent on the market. This is mainly because closed-back headphones isolate you better from other noise happening around you, so they are the better choice for most situations. Additionally, because of their enclosed nature, closed-back headphones deliver much stronger bass than open-back and are great for fans of bass-heavy music genres, like EDM or hip hop. 

Additionally, closed-back headphones don’t leak as much sound as open-back models, so they’re ideal for traveling or focusing during work. Closed-back headphones are superior for noise canceling by sealing ears from the outside world. Many closed-back headphones also include small microphones to perform ‘active’ noise canceling that adapts to your surroundings. 

Our pick for top closed-back headphones? The Meze Liric II, which includes absorptive material to deaden back waves, is one of our favorites we’ve heard. Check out our YouTube video on the Meze Liric II headphones! And, if you’re looking for wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, you have to try out the Focal Bathys!

Why Choose Open Back Headphones? 

Because open-back headphones allow air to flow from the speaker driver, the sound is usually much less distorted than closed-back headphones—and put simply, they sound better. You’ll hear more details and realistic mid and high-frequency ranges, where you hear more voices and instruments. 

If music listening and quality is your priority, open-back headphones are typically your best bet. Since closed-back headphones cause sound to reflect off the back of the driver, you simply can’t reach the amount of precision and texture that you can with open-back versions. 

Which Is Right for You?

Closed Back 

  • More common 
  • Stronger bass, great for electronic and hip-hop 
  • Better for noise canceling 
  • May experience sound distortion 

Open Back 

  • Higher quality audio 
  • More natural, spacious, and balanced sound 
  • May leak audio
  • Little noise isolation 

The choice ultimately depends on your listening habits and personal preferences! If you’re an indie rock lover who wants headphones to focus on music quality, open-back may be the right choice. If you want headphones to take on airplanes or to the office, and if you love booming bass frequencies, then closed-back makes the most sense. 

Compare Closed Back & Open Back Headphones at HiFi Buys! 

As much as we love to write about audio, there’s nothing like hearing it in person. So visit us in Atlanta, GA, and try out closed-back and open-back headphones for yourself! We have 25 headphones on our headphone bar ready to test out. 

Have any questions? Contact HiFi Buys here

One Firefly

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